The contaminated raw materials that forced Barry Callebaut to stop chocolate production in Belgium came from Hungary.
A batch of lecithin was unloaded at the Wieze plant on June 25. Barry Callebaut has confirmed that Salmonella Tennessee has been identified in the plant’s lecithin system and in samples of delivered material. This batch originated from a lecithin manufacturer in Hungary and was transported by a third party. The lecithin involved is only used on this site.
On June 27, Barry Callebaut detected a positive Salmonella on a production batch manufactured in Wieze and lecithin was identified as the source of the contamination on June 29.
Lecithin is used in all chocolate production lines in Wieze, so the company has decided to stop the lines and block all chocolate products produced from June 25 to 29, except for cocoa production which is not linked to the lecithin circuit.
On July 1, Barry Callebaut confirmed that, based on its internal investigation, no affected products have entered the retail food chain. No implicated chocolate was exported by the company outside of Europe.
Wider impact and investigations
The countries affected are Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, according to an alert RASFF.
Barry Callebaut informed the Belgian Food Authority of the incident. The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (AFSCA) went to the site as part of an investigation.
The National Office for Food Chain Safety (Nébih) in Hungary inspected the lecithin supplier, examining processing methods, documentation and taking official samples.
The company’s own testing also confirmed that the batch of lecithin was contaminated with Salmonella, which halted production of the additive and stalled batches at the plant. Based on initial follow-up investigations, the affected items have not been shipped to other companies.
The lecithin involved had a certificate of analysis and Barry Callebaut is investigating how, despite this, it became contaminated.
Impacted customers can remove and destroy liquid chocolate stock impacted by the incident from their tanks and lines under certain conditions. They will then be able to clean, disinfect and restart production. This does not yet apply to solid chocolate.
Barry Callebaut conducts root cause analysis as well as cleaning and disinfection of production lines before resuming operations. No date has yet been set for the reboot.
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